book, movie, and fic reviews (10.11.18)

As promised, this post is dedicated to books, movies, and fanfiction I’ve consumed recently (and not so recently). I’ve got 23 books, 16 movies, and 6 fics in this post, so I’ve put most of it under a cut. Let’s get started.

BOOKS I READ

chaotic good - whitney gardner - princess academy - shannon hale - daughters of the dragon - william andrews - anothertoast book reviews

Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner (Amazon | Goodreads) –  I was kind of disappointed the main character turned out to be cis and straight considering how important crossdressing is to the plot, but this book does a good job of exploring sexism and gatekeeping in fandom and geek culture, cyberbullying, costume design and construction, and the magic of Dungeons & Dragons. Also the illustrations are used really well.

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (Amazon | Goodreads) – This is a middle grade book that’s cute, fun, low-key feminist, and a little big magical.

Daughters of the Dragon by William Andrews (Amazon | Goodreads) – This is a good book that was really hard to read and which I never want to read again. It’s about the Korean “comfort women” who were forced into sexual slavery and repeatedly raped by the Imperial Japanese Army during WWII. The Japanese government refused to acknowledge it happened at all until 1993 and continues to downplay this horrific part of Japan’s history.

beauty queens - libba bray - the secret history - donna tartt - rich people problems - kevin kwan - anothertoast book reviews

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (Amazon | Goodreads) – A bit heavy-handed and clumsily written, but the premise is so damn good: Lord of the Flies but the plane that crashes is carrying beauty pageant contestants.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt (Amazon | Goodreads) – This was my first Donna Tartt book and my GOD it did not disappoint. I loved the prose, especially the physical descriptions of people and the environment. Francis “Asparagus is in season” Abernathy is a precious gemstone, and I was so into this book that I read it between sets while crushed in the pit at a Dua Lipa concert.

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan (Amazon | Goodreads) The 3rd and final installment of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy. Trashy, entertaining fun.

room - emma donoghue - ship it - britta lundin - the raven king - maggie stiefvater - anothertoast book reviews

Room by Emma Donoghue (Amazon | Goodreads) – Honestly this was kind of excruciating to read because it’s written from a 5-year-old’s point of view, but once you get used to it, WHAT A STORY! It is about abduction and abuse but also hope and resilience and adaptability.

Ship It by Britta Lundin (Amazon | Goodreads) – I loved this book. I love that the main character is afraid of and confused by her own queerness, I love that she falls for someone who is so sure of her own queerness that she doesn’t leave room for those who are questioning, I love that there’s a bi character who’s not 100% sure about her sexuality despite being comfortable with herself, and I love that the main character gets called out for not caring about minority representation that doesn’t directly affect herself. A+

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (Amazon | Goodreads) – I was loath to read this because I wanted The Raven Cycle series to go on forever, but I was in such a bad headspace re: work that I gave myself permission to escape to Cabeswater. It was super effective, and as soon as I finished reading, I immediately started looking for fic because I love all of my nightmare children so much!!!

the gentlemans guide to vice and virtue - mackenzi lee - sophia of silicon valley - anna yen - circe - madeline miller - anothertoast book reviews

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (Amazon | Goodreads) – This book really needs a trigger warning for physical abuse and period racism, but if you love gay-ass Victorians, sass, and character development, you’ll have a good time with this one.

Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen (Amazon | Goodreads) – Amusing, but disappointingly blasé about sexism and racism in the tech industry. This book was based off the author’s own work experiences in 1990s Silicon Valley, but I feel very strongly that if a book about the tech industry published in 2018 mentions sexist and racist behavior, it should also call it what it is: a systemic problem.

Circe by Madeline Miller (Amazon | Goodreads) – I decided to read this because I loved The Song of Achilles so fucking much, and it did not disappoint. Madeline Miller’s prose has this sort of timeless cadence that works particularly well in the context of Greek mythology, and it’s so beautiful it makes me want to both weep and swoon. This story is about Circe and WITCHCRAFT and POWERFUL WOMEN and (thirsty Spongebob voice) YOU. NEEEED IT!!!

Read more…

Reading Notes: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

This post contains affiliate links, because I like money, but I s2g I wrote this post before adding the affiliate links and the monetization does not affect my opinions. 

the sisterhood of the traveling pants - ann brashares - book cover

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares is one of those books that I had zero interest in reading when it came out. Maybe even less than 0 interest. Maybe like -5 interest.

It’s not just that everyone else wanted to read it or had already read it and loved it, and I was an angry middle schooler who hated doing what was expected of me (like painting my nails and enjoying Degrassi).

It was that by not liking what the pretty (read: white, mostly blonde) girls at school liked, I could avoid being judged for failing to measure up. By not playing the same game as they did, I couldn’t lose.

I realized eventually that my behavior was a product of a racist society as well as my own internalized misogyny, and that, for example, Legally Blonde is a great movie, and I’m proud to be Chinese-American, and glitter is glorious.

(Granted, I was way more interested in The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter books and movies than anything that had to do with real life, because I realized at an early age that fiction was a great way to escape the hellscape that is living on this planet.)

So when The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants went on sale on Kindle (once again, shoutout to Goodreads daily deals!) I decided to give it a chance, and I… wish I’d checked it out from the library instead.

It was alright. I’m not going to read it again, but I could see myself liking this book a lot if I’d picked it up during early adolescence instead of in my mid-20s. I am definitely most like Lena, but I see myself in both Tibby and Bridget. This book felt real. Growing up is so sad, and happiness is both so small and so huge, y’know?

But frankly, it’s not the kind of YA I want to be reading these days.

Nonetheless, here are some (spoilery) quotes and excerpts that I liked felt the need to comment on, and exactly one vocabulary word, after the jump.

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Reading Notes: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

This post contains affiliate links, because I like money, but I s2g I wrote this post before adding the affiliate links and the monetization does not affect my opinions.

the raven boys - maggie stiefvater - book cover - the raven cycle

I purchased my copy of The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater one day last October when I was feeling really, really down. I’d heard many positive (read: raving) reviews on Tumblr, and I figured what better pick-me-up can I get for $5.99 without leaving my bed than a Kindle copy of a YA fantasy novel where you can ship pretty much all configurations of the characters?

(YA and fanfiction have long been my escapist self-care of choice. Sometimes self-care is brushing your teeth; sometimes it’s reading Drarry fic. I was having a really bad day when I sprung for The Raven Boys.)

Anyway, the short of it is that I, too, am now a raving fan of The Raven Boys. (A raven fan? Please stop me.) It’s fun and easy to read, a little bit creepy, and a lotta bit NOW KISS!!! What more could I ask for?!

If it’s any testament to how much I liked it, I

  1. paced myself and read it over several weeks because I didn’t want it to end
  2. still haven’t read the second installment in the series, because I know I’m going to become obsessed with it to the point of total distraction

If you like your YA fantasy with boarding school uniforms and unresolved sexual tension up the wazoo, check out my reading notes, after the jump.

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Reading Notes: A Little Life: A Novel by Hanya Yanagihara

This post contains affiliate links, because I like money, but I s2g I wrote this post before adding the affiliate links and the monetization does not affect my opinions.

a little life - hanya yanagihara - book cover

[EDIT: After learning a bit more about the author, I find that I can no longer recommend this book to anyone, at all.

When author Hanya Yanagihara was asked if she did any research into the effects of abuse, so that she could accurately portray Jude’s psychological state as a survivor of abuse, she replied, “I didn’t do any research.” In my opinion, this alone renders A Little Life completely vulgar. For an artist depicting abuse to do nothing in the way of studying abuse, to dedicate literally zero attention to abuse and actual victims of abuse – to instead imagine the effects that abuse might have, without verifying that those musings are rooted in truth – feels incredibly disrespectful.

It makes me wonder why someone who doesn’t have first-hand experience with abuse and who took no time to research abuse and its effects would write a novel about graphic abuse.

In an article that mentions Yanagihara’s childhood experiences with viewing cadavers at a morgue, she’s quoted as saying “Disease really fascinates me, what an invader can do to the host body from an imperial perspective but also as an infection…” and “I love discovering how far a body will go to protect itself, at all costs. How hard it fights to live.” I understand that a fascination with disease and bodily functions is important for medical reasons, but because I know Yanagihara wrote A Little Life after doing no research, her comment is straight-up appalling. It reinforces my perception that she wrote this novel for the sole purpose of entertaining her fascination with how much a person can suffer. I find it crass and sensationalist, in the same way that films that depict graphic and gratuitous violence against women are crass and sensationalist. Life is terrible enough and abusive survivors don’t exist for anyone’s amusement; the world doesn’t need torture porn disguised as art, especially not when the artist has made so little effort in examining readily available facts or at least personal interviews that might inform a story about abuse.

Perhaps I’m reading into her comments. I haven’t spoken to Yanagihara personally and asked whether she meant to write a novel about graphic abuse that ends in suicide for her personal enjoyment. But given what she’s said in interviews, it makes me sick to know this book was written by her, and I strongly suggest you do not read it.]

I recently finished reading A Little Life: A Novel by Hanya Yanagihara, thanks to this not-recommendation on Tumblr.

(While I’m not actually acquainted with Lottie in real life (or online), I trust her literary tastes, based on the fact that she’s responsible for my reading The Song of Achilles: A Novel by Madeline Miller and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, both of which are GORGEOUS.)

And while this book at times rendered me catatonically devastated, ultimately, it didn’t leave me sunk in a depression about the pointlessness of life, &c., &c. that so many other readers have mentioned experiencing. In fact, it made me feel hopeful, and mortal, and grateful, and all “The Tail End,” and soul-achingly in love with Augustus.

Perhaps that’s a reflection on my own cynical optimism about life (or optimistic cynicism?) – that it truly is pointless, that death will greet all of us someday, that there will be pain and suffering, that it will be tiring, that there are small, wonderful, precious moments, that loving other people is the best way to make your life feel full, that nothing is fair – perhaps if you’ve already accepted that goodness and suffering do not balance each other out, that they merely coexist, maybe you will enjoy this book. (I suspect you will appreciate it, either way.)

In any case, I’ve taken up the habit of writing down words I don’t know and passages I like when I’m reading. So in the spirit of Maggie Mason’s “Best Parts” posts over at Mighty Girl, here are my reading notes from A Little Life: A Novel by Hanya Yanagihara.

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